Over the past two weeks, the issue of devolution has once again featured in the Brexit debate.
At the annual conference of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon announced a proposal to publish a draft Bill on a further referendum as to Scottish independence. The suggestion has been that Scotland, the majority of whose voters voted to remain in the EU, might again seek independence if the UK were to lose access to the single market. Ultimately, the UK Parliament would most likely be required to agree to a second independence referendum and the Government has indicated that this will not happen.
However, the questions as to the status of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland both in relation to negotiations and post-Brexit have also been discussed. The SNP has stated that it would seek a ‘differentiated’ relationship with the EU whereby Scotland would retain access to the single market, potentially contributing to the EU budget, irrespective of the position of the remainder of the UK – a so-called ‘flexible Brexit’.
Talks took place between the Prime Minister and leaders of the devolved administrations on 24 October. Although, the Office of the Prime Minister subsequently made clear that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would not be able to seek “differentiated” trade relations with the EU, highlighting that this could have the effect of creating internal barriers to trade, the Government has nevertheless stated that it wants the devolved administrations to play a part in making a success of Brexit.